Soft skills are lacking and it’s hurting Georgia’s workforce
In my last article, I wrote about the problems facing rural Georgia and the Rural Georgia House Council which will examine those problems, and to which I’ve been appointed.
Since that time, our Council has met twice in both South and North Georgia communities to talk with community leaders, industry experts, and local business owners about the concerns they are facing. Almost immediately one thing became very clear, and that is that all areas of Georgia are sharing many of the same problems.
In reality, our area of North Georgia is much better off than most other parts of the state. Healthcare, education, broadband, and job creation are all areas of concern, but overwhelmingly the number one problem identified is the lack of a quality work force, not just future jobs, but also for current employers.
Nearly every employer we talked with had concerns about today’s job applicants’ lack of communication skills, manners, problem-solving abilities, and work ethic.
When asked to be specific about what qualities are missing in today’s workers, all were on the same page. They first cited an aging workforce with more people retiring, and the younger generation expected to replace them, not having the same skills and work ethic.
Another area of concern was the lack of soft skills in today’s workers, and also a lack of basic education skills among those applying for jobs. All of these are critical for a qualified workforce, and when combined with the failure of many applicants to pass a drug screening test, you can see why many employers are feeling desperate.
Since I’m limited in space for this column, I’d like to address one of the problems I’m passionate about and that is the area of soft skills. For those who don’t know what the term soft skill means, it’s basically fundamental skills and manners which our society should expect. Nearly every employer we talked with had concerns about today’s job applicants’ lack of communication skills, manners, problem-solving abilities, and work ethic. In fairness this problem is not unique to just rural Georgia or even to the rural areas of the country as a whole. It’s a nationwide problem, and in my opinion, it’s a symptom of the direction in which our society is heading.
It will take a combination of both the public and private sectors working together to try to turn back the situation we are currently seeing. The obvious answer is that it starts with the parents since they are responsible for their children. The sad reality however is that many of the parents also lack these skills and are just passing on their own bad habits to their children.
A suggested solution is that our schools and teachers must make up the difference, but in most cases our teachers are already overworked and still doing their best to teach these skills as a part of their normal routine. If we go the school route, we must find ways to give our teachers more flexibility in the classroom, and find creative solutions to help them deal with these complex, but pressing needs.
Local mentoring programs, both in and out of schools, are a great start in helping with the problem, however most mentoring programs begin in Middle or High School and by that time it’s too late. We should begin as soon as a child enters the education system. The quicker we can break the cycle, the more progress we can make. Who knows, if all goes well, we might even have the children setting a new example for their parents to learn from. There is a precedent for this as we’ve seen childhood and even adult obesity rates decline since we’ve started nutritional education programs in our schools. It’s something I’m sure we will be discussing.
There are no easy answers, but it is an area which must be addressed. It’s the only way in which we will be able to build a quality future for our state and for our nation.
If you’ve got ideas or suggestions, I’d appreciate your input. I can be reached in Atlanta at 404-651-7737 or locally at 706-754-0706. If it’s easier, email me at Terry.Rogers@house.ga.gov. Thank you for giving me the privilege of representing you!
About the author: Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville) represents Georgia House District 10 which includes Habersham and White Counties. He was first elected to office in 2011. Rep. Rogers currently serves as Vice Chairman of the Georgia House Economic Development and Tourism Committee as well as of the State Planning and Community Affairs Committee. He is a member of the Appropriations, Defense and Veteran Affairs, Rules, Regulated Industries and Human Relations and Aging Committees of the Georgia House. Rogers also represents Governor Nathan Deal as a House Representative to the Legislative Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committee and House Speaker David Ralston on the Georgia World Congress Center Oversight committee. Rogers is an Administration Floor Leader for Governor Deal.